If you’ve ever considered or been in the process of writing your CV chances are that in the midst of online guides and google searches you’ve come across a free online CV review. It promises to go through your CV and check whether or not it’s doing you justice, sometimes giving you a score or promising in-depth feedback. It’s very easy to get caught up in trying to get a better score or a better review on these sites but are they accurate? By accurate we mean is having a good CV score or positive review sheet likely to increase your chances of getting your targeted positions. In order to find this out, I sent my CV to the top searches for “Online CV Review” to see what we got back.
Now my CV is by no means perfect, I haven’t changed it since I started my current position and it’s certainly not up to date. This means I am expecting it to flag up some problems and offer some advice. However, there is something to bear in mind, this is my first role straight out of university and as such, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience. The site I uploaded my CV for a free review was CVKnowHow , which is owned by the largest CV company in the country, TopCV, but for reasons unknown are, in this case, trading under another name.
Here’s my CV
First of all, just for the sake of context here’s an example of my old, year out of date CV:
Now while it certainly isn’t up to the scratch of our expert CV writers and massively out of date, it was reasonably effective. With this CV I got 3 Interviews out of the 6 marketing roles I applied for including one at Hachette, so if the test of a CV is how good it is at getting you an interview then it did ok. The layout could be more aesthetically pleasing and the personal profile certainly needs work (to find out how to write a job-winning personal profile click here) but it’s pretty concise and easy to follow with statistics backing up achievements.
Uploading my CV
So I headed over to the CV KnowHow website and was greeted with this welcoming screen:
It’s a pretty easy process to complete, just upload your file and there you go – hey presto! What interests me more however is the wording just below the headline, in particular the part that reads “from a trusted CV expert.” Now I might just be being pedantic but to me, that seems to mean that a person, a “CV expert” will be personally looking at my CV and providing me with a review. Isn’t that nice of them? Particularly as it’s a free service. While I try and contain my cynicism, do me a favour and just remember that this service seems to promise an individual CV review by a real, living, breathing person. Trust me it’ll be important for later.
Immediately after I sent my CV into the ether, I got a nice automatic email from CVKnowHow/TopCV saying thanks for uploading it and we’ll review it shortly. To be fair to them they did. In less than 24 hours, not long enough to be inconvenient nor short enough to be suspicious, I received an email from the lovely Emma Miller, a CV Expert, with the completed review:
I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised when the email appeared to be from a real person, whether or not they’re a “CV Expert” is another matter, but at least it didn’t immediately appear to be a prewritten, copy and paste job or automated response. However, one short word immediately put me back on my guard. “We”. ‘WE evaluated your CV’. Who’s this we? I was promised a single, designated CV expert to review my CV. I was shocked and appalled. SHOCKED AND APPALLED. What a waste of 0p and two minutes of my life! I suppose there’s a chance that a few people looked at it together and then sent me their review, but more likely is that it was sent away to some machine or program that just pedalled out a formulated response that has no bearing on the actual value of my CV as a job-seeking tool.
The Search for Emma Miller
After being promised an “I” and receiving a “We” I understandably started to doubt the validity of the whole enterprise. Was it just a machine talking to me? Was this whole thing a colossal (2minutes) waste of time? Was Emma even real? I decided that in order to be able to sleep at night I had to do some digging.
I began my elite detective work with a google search. “Emma Miller CV Expert” I keyed in and was immediately provided with an innumerable amount of results. The most promising was a link to LinkedIn, “Emma Miller – Independent consultant” it read. Not CV expert but still I had to check it out. I opened the link with trepidation but was immediately disappointed. It wasn’t Emma. It looked nothing like her, nor did it mention anything in the bio about being a CV expert or any links to CVKnowHow. Nor for that matter did any other of the google search results. Disheartened, I decided to try LinkedIn but again no luck. There were several other Emma Miller’s but none matched the photo! I was close to giving up, my considerable detective skills exhausted. Then I had a stroke of genius…
Reverse Image Search! I quickly saved the image, then googled how to do a reverse image search because why would you know, and sat back feeling smug and certain that I would finally have an answer to the identity of the mysterious CV Expert Emma Miller!
Ah. We may have a problem.
After Emma proved to have absolutely no online identity, profiles and even her picture throwing up a blank I was forced to confront the grim reality. There was no Emma Miller. She wasn’t a real person. My worst fears had been confirmed, I’d wasted at least 5 minutes now, talking to a robot!
But what about the CV review – was it just an automated response or was it actually useful? The reason for this article in the first place struck me like a pen to the head – or that might’ve been my boss when he found out I’d spent over an hour trying to find a random woman on the internet. I refocused back on my original task and opened the review:
To save you the time and effort of reading the review I’ll break it down into its principal critiques: Too many bullet points, weak career summary and too much passive language.
The second critique certainly has a point, the personal profile section of my CV could definitely do with some development but the review offers no guidance on how exactly I should go about this other than pointing out that one sentence probably isn’t enough to sell myself to a company. If you’d like some more guidance on CV writing and the Job application process check out our blog. As I say though it certainly isn’t wrong in this regard.
The CV Reviewer, who or whatever they might be, also seems to have an issue with the number of bullet points I use in my CV. Once again they might have a point, while it is important to keep a cv concise it is also important to explain in prose from the job role itself rather than reducing it to bullet points. Really bullet points should be used to convey your experiences and achievements while in the role as they’re the most easily scannable and eye-catching part of the job outline section. Not that the CV review explains any of this – it just says that it makes it looks bad, hardly the most helpful of critiques. Again the CV review does very little to actually show the problem and seems entirely obsessed with how the CV looks rather than the content, which is of course the most important part.
The Final critique, however, I do take issue with. It is definitely important to phrase your CV in terms of achievements or, as the CV reviewer puts it, “as an achiever”. The example they provide though is not only baffling but also utterly ridiculous and in no way helpful. The line they identify in my CV as being passive is “Upon vacating the role all receipts were fully digitalised, photocopied, appropriately edited and backed up”. I would argue that this example is results-based, considering that it identifies and makes the achievement the central point. However, I am willing to accept that I could potentially put it more assertively and less passively. It’s the generalised example they give that I find so ridiculous:
“Slashed payroll/benefits administration costs 30% by negotiating pricing and fees, while ensuring the continuation and enhancements of services.”
Firstly, if you take nothing away from this article except this point, never use “slashed” in your CV. It sounds like a bad 90s supermarket advert and is in no way going to endear you to potential employers. The use of statistics is good as is centring the achievement (which I’d already done) but the argument that changing “negotiated” to “negotiating” changes the sentence from passive to active is simply untrue. The idea that just changing the tense is all you need to do to turn your CV into a job-winner is incorrect. What matters is the content, your achievements and how you achieved them rather than using bizarre language like “slashed” or trying to put every statement into the present tense.
So the comments provided in the review weren’t very helpful and in some cases, the examples it provided are more likely to hinder than help you in your job search. Does that mean though that it’s an automated response? The review did at times seem to apply to my CV even if it wasn’t that helpful so it could be written by a real person rather than a robot. There was only one way we could really test this. We got one of our Expert Writers to submit a CV they’d written that we knew had gotten our client his desired job. They did and guess what? The review they got differed in only one way – this time it had too few bullet points than too many – do with that as you will.
Overall, the free Online CV Review seemed too good to be true and of course, it was. It implied someone would look at my CV and give me a bespoke critique which seemed incredibly generous for no payment. This was not the case, instead what I received was a generic review with general unhelpful advice that could be damaging to someone writing their CV. Its meant as a marketing tool to explain why you need their services by exposing the shortfalls of your CV, even if none exist. If you’d like an honest review of your CV then contact us to get your free CV action plan from DiamondCV.
I am also sadly forced to confront the fact that Emma Miller likely isn’t a real person. However, if anyone has any information over whether Emma exists or not, or Emma herself would like to provide evidence that she isn’t an android from the year 3000 I am open to be proven wrong!